Dear Divorced and Remarried Catholics


Communion

Dear friends,

I am writing to you for two reasons, first, because many of you have written to me about a wonderful phenomenon you are experiencing, describing it as feeling a “pull” to be in full communion with the Church. However, you explain you cannot proceed because you have been divorced and remarried without going through the annulment process and receiving a decree of nullity. Many of you continue to come to mass and respectfully do not approach the Eucharist, but instead, wait patiently while others receive. I commend you for this and I have no doubt this “pull” you describe is the call of the Holy Spirit, leading you back home to the Church. I enthusiastically encourage you to follow this calling of the Holy Spirit. Talk to a priest to discover what your next step should be. No matter how complicated your situation might seem, there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome if your heart is open and humble. There will be so much joy and many incredible blessings when you open yourself to God’s will in your life. His grace is already at work.

More importantly, as your particular impediment gains global attention and is debated in the public square, I want to help you understand what the media will not explain to you. Many people believe the Church’s standards regarding the reception of the Eucharist by divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment are unfair and harshly discriminatory. Members of the media have whipped this discussion into a frenzy of confusion, provoking the anger of people everywhere, divorced and non-divorced alike. In their efforts to cause everyone to doubt the teachings of the Church and misconstrue their true meanings, they’ve succeeded in making this a sort of “human rights” issue, leading you to believe you are being treated unfairly… as if you are second-class citizens. But, nothing could be further from the truth.

So, what is the truth about this issue? The truth is simple: Anyone – married, never-married, widowed, divorced, religious – who is not in the state of grace is prohibited from receiving Holy Communion (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1385).

There are consequences to sin. If we are not in a state of grace due to grave sin, being prohibited from receiving the Eucharist is one of those consequences. We all must approach this holy sacrament, this miracle Christ gives us with the highest regard and the utmost humility so we do not bring condemnation upon ourselves. This is the Church’s way of protecting her children from such condemnation and preserving the necessary respect for the Eucharist. So, for a Catholic who has been divorced and remarried without a decree of nullity, this mandate is not intended to ostricize you, it’s about protecting you and encouraging you to resolve your circumstances so you may receive the Eucharist worthily, just as it would be for anyone else.

There is nothing new about this issue. In the fourth century St. John Chrysostom, one of the early fathers of the Church, urged Christians to approach the Eucharist properly disposed, not just with clean hands and clean clothes, but with clean souls:

You dare not touch the host with dirty hands, even if grave necessity urged you. Likewise, do not approach the Eucharist with a dirty soul, because that would be much graver and carries with it a more terrible punishment (The Eucharist Through The Centuries, Roberto de la Vega).

In a homily he gave on Christmas Day, this great saint further preached the necessity of being properly disposed:

When you approach the awesome and divine table (altar) and those sacred mysteries, do it with fear and trembling, with a clear conscience, with prayer and fasting. Do not approach in disorder . . . that would show great arrogance and no small disrespect. . . . Man, think to yourself what a great Victim you are going to touch, what table you are approaching. Consider that you being earth and ashes, take the blood and body of Christ (ibid).

As baptized Catholics, we are all called to help each other, pray for one another, and lead each other to Christ. For these reasons I write, and I hope it helps to clear the air of misunderstandings. I hope you will follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your life with great joy, for this is a sign that God has not abandoned you. Neither has the Catholic Church.

Please, count on my prayers for you and I welcome your questions and comments at asklisa@catholicmatch.com.






27 Comments

  1. Ann-1084976 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Lisa Duffy, what you say is true, people must be in the state of grace before receiving Jesus in the most holy Sacrament. God Bless you! Ann

  2. Carol-1017436 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for being willing to comment on this. There is a huge misconception out there. I truly hope this reaches and touches many divorced Catholics…all Catholics who do not understand this teaching. What it did for me was lead me through the most healing process of my adult life…annulment. It was through this process I began to learn what a wonderful plan God has for a man and women to come together in marriage in such a complete and intimate way. It opened the door of my heart to seek true lasting love that secular society can NEVER match. I have not yet found who God has intended for me, but I look forward to and will settle for nothing less than the covenantal relationship God intends marriage to be. Still looking and still hopeful. The Church has what is needed to heal the broken heart. Let yourselves be healed,

  3. Paul-1055038 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Hmm, Whilst the church has decided to exclude those from Holy Communion for “Not being in a state if grace” I am not convinced that the reasoning behind it is sound and the basis for this is the initiation of the Eucharist by Christ at the last supper. At the point where the gift of the Eucharist was given, Christ had not died and therefore the price for sins could not have been paid. This in turn means that no one could be in a full state of grace in which to receive the Eucharist but they did anyway. When you factor in that both St Peter (who was about to deny Christ) and Judas both received the gift it rather puts a lot of doubt on a need for us to be in a state of grace to receive it. If the Eucharist should only be received by those in a state of grace then it follows that Jesus would have initiated it after his resurrection when sins had been forgiven but he didn’t and there has to be a reason why that was the case. There is also the view (wrongly I think) that if you are not in a state of grace you would somehow pollute the entire communion. This is simply not possible and in my view it works very much the other way around. By this there is strong reasoning to say that when receiving the Eucharist the grace that comes with it is more likely to cleanse us of sins.

    Taking this a stage further, the idea that by following a process (annulment in this case) somehow puts you in a state of grace compared to someone who hasn’t does not make sense. Just in case anyone may think I am saying this because I have a vested interest in having this changed, well I don’t as I have never been married so it is not of relevance to me.

    • Lisa-993922 May 8, 2014 Reply

      Paul, the Church has always taught that one must be in a state of grace to receive the Eucharist. It goes back to 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, where Paul uses very strong language, indicating that the teaching has been the same from apostolic times. Your reasoning is not illogical in itself, but the truth is that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and has the authority to interpret Christ’s commands and declare them binding. Hence the Church must be obeyed.

    • Siona-1088090 May 8, 2014 Reply

      Good words, Paul. Well spake!

    • William-607613 May 8, 2014 Reply

      Paul,

      The Church teaches that the Last Supper was instituted by Christ as the memorial for His Sacrifice on Calvary. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #611.) He could not have carried out the Last Supper from His crucified position on the Cross; the term, “Holy Sacrfice of the Mass” refers to its place as the memorial for the death of Christ on Good Friday.

  4. Paul-1055038 May 8, 2014 Reply

    It depends on what you mean by being guided by the Holy Spirit and in that context correct interpretation of the guidance is paramount. After all St Peter and St Paul were also guided by the Holy Spirit but were in constant disagreement with each other about key doctrines. I think what concerns me is that if the Holy Spirit has always guided the church then he seems to have had a change of mind after key meetings such as Vatican II which cannot be the case. For that reason I am not convinced that, as a body, the church is always correct in its interpretation of what the Holy Spirit is communicating.

  5. Lourdes-984540 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Wow.
    “Condemnation…terrible punishment…fear and trembling” This sounds more like ‘hellfire and brimstone’ preaching than the loving and merciful God that the Sisters of Mercy taught me about in school.

    Christ turned no one away. NO ONE, regardless of the sin upon them. This was His decision and action so therefore I do not judge anyone who seeks Him in Communion.

  6. Bill-1081670 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Predominately since 1500 AD there have been people who have protested the teachings of the One True Church. This mainly started with Luther but has continued since then. While Paul may disagree with the teachings, we are bound to be obedient to the teachings and the Magesterium. Unfortunately, Paul’s disagreement has parallels where the outcome is clear and that’s why we have so many Protestant sects…

    Be Catholic or not. We have free will.

  7. Ed-1076286 May 8, 2014 Reply

    If you are Living in sin-Andrew Cuomo and NY state Bishops , are you listening, you CANNOT receive communion in a Catholic church. If you are divorced or living apart from a ex spouse and NOT living in sin you ARE still able to receive Holy Communion.You are NOT excommunicated merely from being separated or divorced. I had to wait a couple of years to date again until the Catholic church annulled my marriage.It was tough but the process is not that long or difficult most notably if you had a dysfunctional marriage like I did from the beginning. Jesus was pretty clear about divorce and his and the church’s objection to it. Lewd Conduct spoken in the Bible for divorce would be a Mr Bowman type(Bi Sexual Maryland Cong.)type lewd and dysfunctional marriage.

  8. Elizabeth-1075962 May 8, 2014 Reply

    I agree with Lourdes, who are we to judge, NO ONE SHOULD BE TURNED AWAY, that being said, I’m a very strong and good Catholic. We need the sinners, for we are all sinners, me for sure, I’m a work in progress every single day. Every single day I rise with the Lord and ask for ALL OF HIS GRACES, I need them. Sometimes I hear sometimes I’m distracted, aren’t we all. I judge NO ONE, I DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT to.
    Blessings to all with Catholic Match, Elizabeth

    • Jeffrey-976998 May 10, 2014 Reply

      I’m not so sure you’ve thought your statements through to their logical conclusions.

      If I were to take you at your word, any complete stranger would be welcome to stroll into your house, take the rings off your fingers, the keys off your counter, the money out of your purse, the food out of your refrigerator, then get in your car and drive away – all without any judgement being made by you whatsoever?

      My guess is that you would be incensed that this individual claimed rights, property and privileges that were not his/her own. You would likely demand restitution, with dispatch.

      How quickly protect our meager physical objects, but what of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the all good, all powerful and eternal Creator of all? He is apparently fair game for all manner of blasphemies and desecration. We say, “Come one, come all. Have at Him. Who am I to judge?”

      The Church insists that we judge ourselves prior to approaching our Lord in Holy Communion, and supplies us with the correct and true criteria for doing so. If any of us are in a state of mortal sin, we must take care not to offend this most generous God in the abuse of His unfathomable gift.

      This includes offering the aforementioned criteria to others, that they might not commit this abuse themselves; which is exactly what the author of this post has done.

      This is not judgmentalism. This is justice.

      • Rose-1062640 May 17, 2014 Reply

        I agree with you completely, Jeffrey. Receiving Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, isn’t just a “right” that we can demand. We all need to avail ourselves of the Sacraments and trust that the Church is guiding us in what is right. If we don’t believe in what the Catholic Church teaches, then we are “protestant” in our beliefs. That is why there are so many Christian churches out there, because so many disagreed with the teachings. We need to educate ourselves on the “whys” that the Church says these things to us. If we truly understand the teachings then we will embrace them for the beautiful God given ideals that they are. God bless, Rose

  9. Tom-14285 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Paul, It seems that you are equating all sin with not being in a state of grace. You are correct when you say that the Eucharist can heal sin…venial sin. But by committing mortal sin, it is we who have cut ourselves off from the gift of sanctifying grace…God does continually call us back. But at that point (mortal sin) the healing is not from the Eucharist, but from another of Christ’s instituted sacraments…Confession. And also, I believe that the sin of one does “pollute”, as you say, the whole body of Christ…a condition of which I am very guilty. So I am not judging anyone, nor is the Church. Confession is the healing and reconciliation with Grace that must take place before the Eucharist. I don’t mean to speak for the Church, but just to state what She believes as I understand it. I don’t see it as a “turning away” but a pointing towards confession first. God bless.

  10. Paul-1055038 May 8, 2014 Reply

    Bill, The idea that I would try and set up a counter religion based on questions I have does not follow or make sense. We also have to remember that Jesus also said of the Old Testament Church that they occupy the chair of Moses and from that standpoint had authority over the children of Israel but he also heavily condemned the leadership for making the “Law” a burden on the people. I sometimes wonder if that applies to us today as I just don’t see how a “process” of annulment when given changes the state of grace of the person it is given to compared to someone who is not yet granted the same.

  11. Carol-1017436 May 9, 2014 Reply

    It amazes me how many people, especially after a divorce will spend an amazing amount of time and money going to counselors, support groups, etc. when they can just turn to the healing process of annulment and be willing to live with the consequences of our decisions. I was in a situation where I thought I was not at fault in the failure of my marriage, but came to realize, I was the prodigal child. How much we are still like children where we want no consequences. We don’t want to wait and endure to gain something so much greater. We want what we want and we want it now.

    Understanding and respecting the authority of the Church, during my time of having and choosing to forgo my ability to receive the Eucharist was mine…I wanted it my way. I didn’t consult God even a little when it came to diving into a new relationship. As a result, I ended up in a second marriage that was set up for failure from the beginning. How much we remain like children…Thank goodness we have such a merciful and patient father. Thank goodness, my Mother the Church protected me from myself and the propensity for putting myself in mortal danger. I at least had enough respect for my parents, the Church (my mother) and my heavenly Father that I knew even though i didn’t like it as long as I chose to go against their will, I was choosing to not allow myself to be in a state of Grace to be able to go into full communion with our Lord. I emphasize I choose to not follow Her teachings. I chose my consequence. The Church was just left with having to hold strong for my own sake. I was choosing rather than to want to go through the annulment process earlier, to declare that I knew better than God about what was good for me.

    It is just laughable for me to look back on it now. For me now, it’s God’s way or no way. I’ve stopped fighting with Him to have my own way. Is it hard to be patient…you betcha…Am I confident it will be worth it…Absolutely!!!

    • Rose-1062640 May 17, 2014 Reply

      Yes it will be worth it, Carol. I have chosen divorce and annulment, but sadly, at the moment there is no-one in my life. I chose to go through the process before I start dating (if I ever do). I know it is really hard sometimes. I had considered it the “other way”, but I know God protected me. Only by His Grace. God bless you always, Rose.

  12. Lisa-993922 May 9, 2014 Reply

    Paul, the annulment process does not put a person in the state of grace. Only the Sacrament of Confession does that. An annulment is not a “Catholic divorce” or a license to live in sin. Rather, it goes like this. Marriage is indissoluble, so people who get a divorce are still married in the eyes of God and the Church. Our Lord Himself taught in the Gospels that to be divorced and remarried is to be committing adultery, and adultery is a mortal sin; therefore, people who are living that way are not in a state of grace and cannot receive Communion. HOWEVER, when some people get married, there are circumstances or impediments at the time of the wedding that prevent them from actually creating a valid sacramental marriage bond, often that one or both are too immature to give proper consent, or that they are ignorant or the properties of marriage, or one has been deceived by the other in some way. The annulment process examines all these factors to determine whether or not there was in fact a real marriage to begin with. If it is determined that there was not a real marriage, THEN the parties are free to remarry, or rather, to REALLY get married for the first time. That is why Catholics who remarry after getting an annulment are in a state of grace and may receive Communion- they are not committing adultery, whereas those remarried without an annulment are.

    • Lisa, from what I’ve read, I believe it does not necessarily judge only if a true marriage took place. It also considers if a true marriage can be experienced in the present or going forward.
      One of the considerations for this is for the children conceived during the relationship; if the marriage was not ‘real’, then they could be considered ‘bastardized’.
      The Church has become much more aware of the affects of these experiences on children and seems to approach this more from a healing perspective rather than a judgmental perspective.
      I may not be explaining it with the clarity that a canon lawyer might, but I hope I’m offering a broadened understanding.

      • Lisa-727959 May 14, 2014 Reply

        Hi, Catherine,

        Thanks for contributing to the conversation! You are correct that the annulment process assesses the possibility of a “valid” marriage bond in the future (any man and woman who marry according to civil law have a “real” marriage, they just may not have a “valid” bond in the eyes of God).

        However, the children of putative marriages (assumed to be valid but proven otherwise through the annulment process) are not in any way considered illegitimate as explained in the canon law #1137 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P43.HTM#37.

        Thanks again!

  13. Theresia-758681 May 9, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Lisa, God bless you :)

  14. Tony-705734 May 9, 2014 Reply

    If we are talking about a state of grace we need to be in, which means we are free of sin, then technically NONE of us should be going up for Holy Communion. We all sin. Take away all the talk about divorce and annulments, and go with the basics in life. We are all guilty of saying things we shouldn’t say, doing things we shouldn’t do, taking things we shouldn’t take, and thinking about things we shouldn’t be thinking of. Maybe not all of these things, maybe one thing. So, maybe WE ALL shouldn’t go to Communion anymore. The more this conversation goes on about the topic, the more we make ourselves look like hypocrites.

    • William-607613 May 10, 2014 Reply

      Tony,

      The Church has never taught that being in a state of grace means being free of sin; I’m not sure where you have picked this point up.

      One is in a state of grace when one is free of MORTAL sin. The Church’s teaching on the subject of receiving Holy Communion is that one must be free from MORTAL sin (or, again, in a state of grace) before one can receive.

      There is nothing hypocritical about differentiating between venial sin and mortal sin; the one (mortal sin) severs our relationship with God. The other (venial sin) wounds it without breaking it.

  15. John-1049932 May 16, 2014 Reply

    So what if your wife or husband leaves you, you did not seek or want divorce, and the Church does not see fit to give you an annulment because they feel that your marriage was valid? Are we as Catholics never to remarry? Does not make sense to me.

    • Robert-202465 May 17, 2014 Reply

      Yes, we are never to remarry. It actually makes sense to me. Christ said what God has brought together, let no man take apart. If the Church determines that our original marriage was valid, then we are still married! Its that simple. I accept it. If we don’t want to accept the authority of Holy Mother Church, then we cease to be Catholic. And , I trust Her decision decisions far above the opinions of the world and even my own! Ive only been on this planet for just a flicker of light compared to the 2000 years of wisdom of the Bride of Christ under the guidance by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, even if our spouse did leave us, it takes two to Tango. I am not blameless in my wife wanting to leave me. I made mistakes too, I was sinful. There are consequences to those sins. I accept that.

  16. Robert-202465 May 17, 2014 Reply

    Paul and others who disagree with the Church teaching on the reception of the Eucharist, you are simply barking up the wrong tree. The Church did not just make this up! Its in the Scriptures and has been Church teaching since Christ. One can misquote the pope all he likes or refer to other scripture but its irrelevant.

    Christ said that to be divorced and remarried is adultery. It is simply Protestant error to argue that divorce is acceptable if your spouse cheated on you. There is NO out. The only acceptable way to be married after a divorce is to determine that ones original divorce was invalid in the first place, which is the true interpretation to the supposed “exception” clause to divorce. Since adultery is a grave and possibly mortal sin it is therefore scripturally not permissible to receive the Eucharist unworthily. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord” 1 Corinthians 11:29. Thus, if you are sharing the marriage bed after a divorce, you are committing adultery and if you are committing adultery, which is a grave sin, then you cannot take the Eucharist worthily. The Church did not just make up some judgmental Pharisaical rules to create income through an annulment tribunal as some may like to believe!

    That faithful Catholics can miss this I CAN understand sometimes. The world is throwing at us lots of misconceptions, Protestant errors, and secular philosophy which is NOT the Word of God. It is thee world that is improperly judgmental, and insincerely concerned about our best interests and welfare. It is ONLY the Church that is truly concerned about our best interest! She teaches what Christ taught. We bring condemnation on yourself when you come to the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. In virtually every case , divorce and remarriage represents grave if not mortal sin. Clearly one cannot consider approaching the altar table worthily with grave sin. Scripture even tells of those who are sick and dying because they have done so! The Church only wants to protect us from serious spiritual consequences! The world couldn’t care less!

    Of course there are all kinds of different situations. But people like to bring up the most bizarre situations to try to argue why any given second marriage is a valid and holy sacramental relationship, and thus that makes receiving the Eucharist acceptable in all cases of divorced and remarried couples. Its not even a logical argument, let alone proper theological or scriptural argument. Its not up to us to decide that! That’s why Christ gave us a Church. If we don’t want to accept Her authority, and feel justified by our one own fallible interpretation of scripture and doctrine that is simply NOT Catholic.

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